Determination to Learn

About a year ago, Daniel, a 19-year-old New Zealander, gave me a call, and asked if he could just come by our office and hang out and learn things quietly on his own. He wasn’t sure what to do for university, or if he even wanted to study at all. He was aware we had a techie internship programme, but didn’t feel qualified enough to join us and get paid for it. 

We thought, why not? The worst that could happen was he’d come in, and stop showing up after a while. (Which is what happened with some other guy.) 

He never stopped showing up. 

He learned a whole bunch of programming, made himself very useful, we offered him a proper paid internship, and now he’s off to study CS. Read his story at our blog.

“How To Be Successful”

Sam Altman, successful CEO of successful tech incubator Y Combinator:

Ten years ago, before I started a company, I would have lapped up this kind of blog post.

Now, though… “Compound yourself”? “Have almost too much self belief”? And “learn to think independently”, in a prescriptive 13-point listicle that’s “the most important thing he’s ever written”? My eyes rolled right out of my head before I got to the valid points.

What’s a Tinkertanker

Republished from Medium.

We started Tinkertanker in 2011, and haven’t written much about the company and what we do. As a result, we now regularly get emails from people who think we run an actual tanker.

Maritime recruiters, please stop sending us crew member CVs! We don’t run a ship! We’ll let you know when we buy one okay, but COEs are expensive

So, here we go:

A paper version of TKrobot, our mascot. We squished him once accidentally, and he’s been mad at us since.

Who we are. Tinkertanker is a technology and education company. We’re coders who enjoy teaching, teachers who enjoy coding, and coders who enjoy teaching, and people who repeat themselves. (Did we mention we’re teachers who…)

Our products. We run Tinkercademy, where we teach coding and electronics to students of all ages; GuestDay, an iPad-based guest registration service; Get Hacking, an online store for technology toys and tools; and various smaller tech projects, like 125andup, which we recently retired, and our IC Photo app, which, uhh, we should probably get around to updating before Apple kicks us off the App Store.

What we do. Our core strengths are in building software, teaching technology, and creating with electronics; essentially, we spend our time making cool stuff with technology, or teaching folks how to do the same. Not everyone in our team codes and teaches, but we all enjoy tinkering with open-source frameworks, electronics, 3D printing, laser cutting, design tools, and more.

The office. Our office at Tai Seng is a workshop, lab, and warehouse, with a well-stocked pantry that usually doesn’t contain solder or wood chips. We have three Michelin-starred eateries within walking distance, so that lets us get pretty fat.

Our technology stack. While most of our current production code is in Ruby and Objective-C, we have projects implemented in other languages — Python, PHP, Clojure, Squeak. We teach in Python, Swift, Java, HTML, CSS, flavour-of-the-year JavaScript framework, Unity C#, Arduino C, Scratch, and more. Our upcoming projects are an Android app (Android Studio, Java), an iOS app (Xcode, Swift), and a micro-controller compiler (a healthy mix of C++, JavaScript, and staring at one another suspiciously).

So, there we go, an introduction to this little company we call our own. We’ll keep this post updated as we evolve, and we hope to tell you more about what we do in future posts, which may or may not take another 6 years. Stay tuned!

The Company We Keep

Republished from Medium.

After I left a five-year stint in the Ministry of Education, I started Tinkertanker in 2011 with two of my closest friends.

We created our very first invoice for teaching a programming class, did some software consulting, made a couple of apps, hired our first full-timers, started teaching a boatload* of programming classes, started an online store, hired a boatload* of technical interns, worked with IMDA on projects, exhibited at events, designed some hardware, and now we can’t describe what we do in a sentence any more.

So we’re starting a blog:

… where we get to adapt all these emails and blurbs we’ve written about the company over the years into something we can share. Take a look, and let us know if you have any feedback, want to work with us, or know anyone awesome we can work with.

* Boatload because “tanker”, get it, get it, hur hur hur

Neil Gaiman on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Neil Gaiman on reading:

Also, do not do what this author did when his 11-year-old daughter was into RL Stine, which is to go and get a copy of Stephen King’s Carrie, saying if you liked those you’ll love this! Holly read nothing but safe stories of settlers on prairies for the rest of her teenage years, and still glares at me when Stephen King’s name is mentioned.

(There were many more important, but less hilarious, bits than this quote.)

Coding the Curriculum: How High Schools Are Reprogramming Their Classes

A look at how one high school is introducing programming into all its classes, even unrelated subjects. Some of these are eyebrow-raise-worthy at first glance:

Brown says she’s considering a poetry unit using code language. […] Tina Farrell, who heads the Performing Arts department, is interested in experimenting with live-coding performances, where students would use software to compose and perform music with scripts they write.

But just _imagine_ if these worked.

Also, new to me, linked from the article: [TurtleBits](, an interactive turtle learning tool. Still one of my favourite intro programming resources.